Are bantam chickens good egg layers?
Yes, just like all other breeds of chickens, some bantams are good layers, and some are quite poor layers.
Bantams tend to get a bad rap for laying, mostly because they take a long time to mature and come into lay, and also because they have a tendency for broodiness.
Mine seem to average eight months or so before they start to lay. Thankfully they have been pretty consistent since. They don't seem to be as seasonal as some of the large fowl breeds are so we get quite a few bantam eggs in winter.
Below: A selection of eggs from my chickens and bantams.
Productive bantam breeds actually have a better feed to egg conversion ration than large fowl so they can make economic sense and if allowed to free range they can find a good proportion of their daily feed.
The eggs tend to be too small for kitchen and commercial use and bantams have a tendency to broodiness and seasonal laying.
I prefer to eat my bantam eggs as it's an excuse to have three instead of two and the yolks represent a larger proportion of the egg.
Can you eat all bantam chicken eggs?
You can eat all bantam eggs, from the tiny little Serama whose eggs are barely an ounce to the Orpington bantams whose eggs are nearly two ounces.
I have Japanese bantams and eat the eggs, they are absolutely amazing soft boiled for 3 minutes and chopped into a salad.
Below: Japanese bantam eggs are not much bigger than quails eggs.
Bantam eggs are smaller than standard chicken eggs, being roughly half the size. The ratio for using them in the kitchen is 3 bantam eggs for every 2 standard eggs.
How many eggs do bantams lay a year?
Bantams lay anything between 80 and 220 eggs per year. I have both Pekin bantams and Silkies which are terrible layers when it comes to quantity but brilliant when it comes to quality. These two breeds are probably the worst when it comes to numbers of eggs.
The best I have ever had was bantam white Leghorns, These produced 220 surprisingly large, for their size, white eggs a year.
The best egg laying bantams lay 200 eggs a year or so in their first year, although the numbers do taper off gradually over the years.
Which bantams are the best egg layers?
If you're keeping bantams just for the eggs, it's best to consider keeping these breeds. I have made a chart below to show which of the bantam chickens I have kept over the years have made the best layers.
List of the 11 bantam breeds I have kept over the years that have been productive layers:
- Leghorn bantams are often reckoned to be some of the best layers - but they can be flighty.
- Easter egger bantams. And you get the coloured eggs.
- Sussex bantam. Mine have always been good.
- Brahma bantam.
- Wyandotte. Sometimes tending to broodiness
- Barnevelder. Such nice speckled eggs.
- New Hampshire red bantam. Small eggs but good numbers.
- Polish hens are surprisingly good layers.
- Spangled hamburghs. Large egg for the size of the bird.
Which breeds of bantams are not good layers?
Silkies and Pekins have already had a mention in regards to the lower numbers of eggs they produce. The true bantams are generally not good layers producing only 120 to 150 very small eggs a year.
List of poor laying bantam breeds:
- Silkies. Always broody as well.
- Pekins. Good size but lacking in the numbers department.
- Japanese bantams. Good numbers but lacking in the size department.
- Serama. Small eggs, sporadic and seasonal layers.
Often chickens that lay dark coloured eggs are poor layers.
How do bantam eggs compare to normal sized chicken eggs?
Bantam eggs are between half and two thirds the size of a standard chickens egg.
In cooking you need to substitute 2 true bantam eggs for each normal egg or 3 ordinary bantam eggs fro 2 standard chicken eggs.
Below: Here is a size comparison between large fowl eggs (left), Bantam eggs (middle) and true bantam egg (Right).
On the left is the ordinary chickens egg, in the middle one from a Wyandotte bantam and on the right a Japanese bantam egg.
What colour eggs do bantams lay?
Most bantams lay a white through to cream or light brown egg. Very few bantam breeds lay coloured eggs but there are a few.
Easter Egger can lay almost any colour egg from olive through browns to white and I had some bantam Welsummers that laid a brown egg.
Below: Some brown eggs from my bantam Welsummers.
By far my current favourite egg is that laid by my bantam Barnevelders, they are a light brown with dark brown speckles.
How many years do bantams lay eggs?
Much like their large fowl cousins, egg laying bantams are productive for around 5 years.
After that the eggs drop off quickly with Bantams only producing 60 or so eggs in their sixth year and probably none or very few after that.
The exception to this is possibly Silkies, they lay for a few extra years as they produce so few every year. Mine have laid into their eighth year.
Can you buy bantam eggs to eat?
Not easily and not generally from shops. You need to know someone who keeps them who will be willing to part with them so the odds are stacked against you.
You can find bantam eggs for sale on Facebook in some of the specialist groups.
Is there a Bantam Hybrid hen?
There are one or two. Perhaps the best known bantam hybrid is either the Easter Egger or the Goldtop, a Light Sussex cross Silkie that is used as a broody hen when there are no incubators around.
I produce a similar one from a Light Sussex cross Barnevelder which has very similar characteristics and spends more time in the family way than not.
The bantam Easter egger is most commonly kept hybrid bantam amongst backyard keepers, well known for its random egg colours.
Commercially as egg layers I know of only one, it is produce from bantam and white Leghorns and is a middling size. A bit large for a bantam but it lays large numbers of average sized eggs, around 48 to 50 grams or approximately 2 ounces.
So some bantams are and some aren't. The truth is some bantams produce just as much egg for their size as large fowl. They are just smaller.
If you are in two minds about which way to go, you could always get a mix of birds and get a few good layers and a few of the not so good ones.